Last summer, I went to one of those big radio-station concerts where a bunch of bands that don’t have a whole lot to do with each other share a stage. That was how I saw MGMT play immediately after Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. After the Dap-Kings’ electrifying, James Brown–like show, it struck me as unfortunate that some nice indie kids would have to go onstage and play their polite, quirky college rock. I thought: This is what it must have felt like to be at one of those infamous shows in 1967 when Jimi Hendrix opened for the Monkees. Once you’ve heard real soul played by a great band and sung by a great performer, almost everything else seems weak.
That’s what happened to young Eli Reed when he discovered his father’s collection of old R&B and gospel records. He was hooked. He left his home in Brookline, Massachusetts, to sing in rough-and-tumble blues clubs in Mississippi and a gospel church in Chicago. Gifted with a voice that can swing between a sweet croon and a ragged, Wilson Pickett–like holler, he more than held his own.
Taking his nickname from the newsboy’s cap he wore in his early performances, he assembled a seven-piece band, the True Loves, and began touring and releasing records in 2005. His biggest and best so far is last year’s Come and Get It, which features mostly original tunes in the style of his heroes. For this tour, he’s billed as playing in a duo. Even in this stripped-down state, he will probably tear up the joint.
ELI “PAPERBOY” REED: The Casbah, Tuesday, February 8, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $12 advance; $14 door.